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New AI model of Sony's beloved robot dog 'aibo' to hit shelves

In this Nov. 1, 2017 photo, Sony Corp.'s new "aibo" model is seen at the company's headquarters in Tokyo's Minato Ward. (Mainichi)

The household robot dog "aibo" will be returning to shelves across Japan in January 2018, manufacturer Sony Corp. announced on Nov. 1.

    The popular previous model by the same name went on sale in 1999, and the announcement of the new product marks Sony's first return to the robotics market since 2006. The new aibo will be equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology allowing it to communicate with and learn from its "owner," and develop individuality.

    The 1999 version of aibo was programmed to develop differently depending on how its owner interacted with it and some 150,000 units were sold, but manufacturing of the robotic dog was halted in 2006. Ten years later, the original engineers of aibo were gathered once again, and development progressed on a new model using AI.

    Sony Corp. President Kazuo Hirai holds the new "aibo" model at a press conference held at Sony's headquarters in Tokyo's Minato Ward on Nov. 1, 2017. (Mainichi)

    "This is a robot that can connect with people's hearts and bring out the feelings of love that come from raising an animal," said Sony President Kazuo Hirai during a press conference held in Tokyo.

    Preorders for the new AI dog opened on Sony's direct sales website on Nov. 1, with the product release set for Jan. 11, 2018. Each dog costs 198,000 yen not including tax.

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